NATO General Believes Poroshenko Will Bring Stability to Ukraine

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Newly elect-President Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated on Saturday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has congratulated the newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, on his inauguration on Saturday.

Mr. Poroshenko, 45, won the presidential election on May 25.  His inauguration brings much needed hope for the restoration of peace and stability in Ukraine after months of internal turmoil has torn the country apart and devastated numerous lives.

In late February, former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after months of protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, which resulted in over 100 people dead.  An interim president, and government, took over until a democratically elected president was elected.

The new president brings hope of peace not just to the people of Ukraine, but leaders, organizations and officials across Europe and the West.

After months of fighting between the Ukrainian military and independence fighters–also labeled as separatists, pro-Russians, and “terrorists” by Kiev authorities–President Poroshenko has said he has a plan to bring peace.

Mr. Rasmussen welcomed Mr. Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday and wished him “success in carrying forward this new position of responsibility at a defining time in Ukraine’s history.

“The presidential elections were an important milestone for Ukraine,” Mr. Rasmussen said.  “In holding transparent and democratic elections despite significant challenges, the people of Ukraine showed their commitment to a united, independent and sovereign country.”

During the elections in May, separatists in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions disrupted voting.  Out of the twelve poling districts in Donetsk, 10 did not take place.  In Luhansk, fourteen out of the 22 polling districts did not take place either.  Only eight-hundred out of 3,908 polling stations were open.

Reasons for the disruption ranged from fear, to direct threats against voters by separatists.

But despite these problems, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) stated that the elections were largely successful.  Voting took place normally in other parts of Ukraine, with voting assessed positively in 98% of polling stations independently observed.

Secretary Gen. Rasmussen stated that he is confident that Mr. Poroshenko’s “leadership will contribute to the stabilization of the country, building on the inclusive political dialogue launched ahead of the elections.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Moscow will respect the will of the Ukrainian people and work with the newly elected president to help bring peace and stability to Ukraine.

NATO remains committed to supporting Ukraine within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, Mr. Rasmussen said.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission is a decision-making body that is responsible for developing the NATO-Ukraine relationship.  Talks include a number of things such as strengthening defense following the annexation of Crimea by Russian in March.

NATO is finalizing “further comprehensive measures to assist Ukraine and support reforms in the country’s security and defense sector,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Mr. Ruasmussen concluded his statement with the promise of further support for Ukraine, saying: “Ukraine is a long-standing and active NATO partner, and we look forward to working with President Poroshenko.  NATO Allies stand firm in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

In other Developments in Ukraine:

  • OSCE SMM Observers observed anti-government rallies in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.  Both rallies were small and non-violent.
  • Self-declared Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Donestk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin survived an attempted assassination on Saturday.  A passing car reportedly fired at Mr. Pushilin, who was not hit.  His assistant, Maxim Petruhin, was, however, killed.

 

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More OSCE Monitors Detained in Ukraine

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Pro-Russian Separatists in Donetsk prepare for fighting against Ukrainian military forces. Photo by Reuters.

Eleven members of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine were detained on Wednesday, the OSCE reports.

The group was on its way to Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine’s fourth largest city with a population of roughly one million, from Donetsk city when they were stopped at a road block in Marinka.

Contact with the monitors was then lost for several hours before being reestablished when the group returned to Donetsk.

The nationalities of the group are American, Austrian, Bulgarian, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian and Slovak.

The OSCE lost contact with another SMM group, consisting of four members, on Monday and has not heard from them since.

In April, a separate team of observers were detained for a week by pro-Russian activists in Slovyansk, the separatists stronghold in Donetsk region, before being released.

“It’s war, it’s civil war.”

Ukraine has been in a crisis for nearly eight months that threatens to tear the country in half.

In November of 2013, pro-EU activists took to the streets in Kiev to protests against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych against a deal he favored for closer ties to Russia.

The protest turned violent when the former president passed an anti-protest law which led to clashes between the protesters and police officers in and around Maidan, Kiev’s Independent Square, that resulted in over 100 deaths and the ousting of Mr. Yanukovych.

Shortly later, Russian soldiers, referred to as “little green men” because of the green uniforms they wore that bore no insignia, invaded Crimea, raising fears that Russia would repeat in Ukraine what it did to Georgia in 2008.

In March, Moscow annexed the peninsula after referendums on joining the Kremlin were held in the region.

Kiev and the West refused to recognized the referendum and annexation as legitimate but there was little the Ukrainian government could do.  Majority of the population in Crimea are ethnic Russians and are in favor of being apart of Russia.

After the annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin continued to stress its right to intervene in Ukraine if it felt the rights of the Russian-speaking population were violated, leading to fears that Moscow would order a military invasion.

The support pro-Russian activists were receiving from Moscow led to separatists uprisings throughout eastern Ukraine.

The Kiev authorities then ordered for “anti-terror” military operations to squash the rebellion.

On May 11, pro-Russian leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk held referendums for greater self-rule and then declared a “People’s Republic”.

Just two hours later, Denis Pushilin, the leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” asked for the region to be annexed by Russia.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin declined Mr. Pushilin’s request and seemed to have flip-flopped from his previous aggressive position.

In recent weeks, Mr. Putin has stressed his desire for peace and stability in Ukraine and has said that Moscow will work with the Ukrainian government to make his desires a reality.

Meanwhile, the military operations conducted by Kiev authorities have continued and resulted in the deaths of dozens of people.

Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has promised to crush the separatists uprising in the east of the country “within hours”, suggesting that the “anti-terrorists” operations will escalate into further, bloodier violence.

Moscow, however, has demanded that Ukraine end its military operations.

Over 100 people have been killed at Donetsk Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in the past three days in the bloodiest fighting between Ukrainian military forces and anti-Kiev separatists.

One agonized and tormented middle-aged man that is a resident of Donetsk described the situation in Ukraine to BBC, saying: “It’s war, it’s civil war.”

 

 

Summary of the UN’s Human Rights Situation in Ukraine Report

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On Thursday, the UN released a 37 page report on Human Rights in Ukraine, stating: the Ukrainian Government’s steps towards the implantation of the April 17 Geneva Agreement; the crimes committed by armed groups throughout Ukraine; harassment towards Crimean Tatars following the annexation of the region by Russia in March; the necessity of investigations by the Kiev government on the violent events that have occurred in Odessa and other cities throughout the eastern party of the country; the many peaceful protest, many of which have turned violent, resulting in “numerous deaths and injuries”; the threats towards journalist and media outlets; and the critical role of a fair and free Presidential election on May 25 to deescalate the country’s crisis.

Aftermath of Protest in Kiev’s Independent Square

Over 120 people, consisting of protesters and police officers, were killed in the violent protest from February 18-20 in Kiev’s–Ukraine’s Capital–Independent Square which led to the ousting of former President Viktor Yanukovych.  Hundreds more were wounded.

Seventy-five of the 120 were killed by firearms from February 19-20.  Many more were wounded.

Forty-six people were killed by the Berkut special police force.  As of April 24, 2014, three Berkut officers have been arrested and officially charged with murder. 

The report states that the Office of the General Prosecutor is currently verifying claims that foreigners participated in the crimes committed during the protest in late February.

According to the NGO EuroMaiden SOS, as of May 5, 2014, 83 demonstrators from the protest remain unaccounted for.  Initially after the protest ended, 314 people were reported missing, but many have since been found; others have been reported killed or dead.

“It is critical to identify the whereabouts and fate of those who remain missing from Maidan [Kiev’s Independent Square],” the report adds. 

Greater self-power, and amnesty in Ukraine

The report discussed the Ukrainian government’s plan to distributed more self-power to local governments throughout the country, as well as amnesty for, minors, pregnant women, individuals having children under the age of 18 or children with disabilities, persons with disabilities and people infected with tuberculosis or with an oncological disease, those who have reached the age of retirement, war veterans, combatants and invalids of war, liquidators of the accident at Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and people with parents over the age of 70 or with disabilities.  

Between 23,000 to 25,000 convicts could be eligible for an amnesty, the Parliamentary Committee on Legislative Support of Law Enforcement estimates.

There have been five drafts submitted to the Parliament by different political parties, all of which consisted of seeking amnesty legislation that covers: actions to overthrow the legal government; organization of riots; and seizure of administrative and public buildings.  All five of the drafts consider that cases of “separatism” should fall within the scope of an adopted amnesty.  The drafts aim to give amnesty to those who have participated in protest following the ones in late February, as well as ease tensions and resolve the crisis in Ukraine, particularly in the east and south of the country.

Protest in Ukraine

The ongoing events in Ukraine have led to an increase in violence and crimes.

From observations by the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU), as well as reports they have received, there has been numerous peaceful protest by pro-Unity and pro-Russian Ukrainians.  However, a large number of these protest have resulted in violence, leading to injuries and deaths.

The clash between pro-Unity and pro-Russian activists two weeks ago in Odessa, a seaside port city along the Blacksea and the country’s largest city, resulted in roughly 40 deaths.

The HRMMU reports that majority of clashes between pro-Unity and pro-Russian activist have been initiated by the latter.

In many cases, the local police forces have been unable and inadequate to “ensure law and order.”  There has even been times when the police have openly cooperated with the attackers in the protest.

These violent protest have also result in larger numbers of bitterness and resistance towards the Kiev government.

Crimes by Armed Groups

Armed groups in Ukraine, especially the eastern part of the country, have been accused of increasing numbers of human rights abuses, including abductions, torture and ill treatment, unlawful detentions, and killings, as well as the seizing of and occupying of public buildings.

There has been numerous and credible reports that these armed groups have been growing in numbers.  The groups are very well trained, organized, and heavily armed, and have even taken down several Ukrainian military helicopters.

These armed groups, which call themselves “self defense” units, have increased in presence and power in eastern Ukraine, specifically Donetsk where a “People’s Republic” has recently been formed.  Throughout the eastern part of the country, they seize administrative and public buildings, and are blamed for the rise in violence and crimes throughout the eastern regions.

In some cities and towns, there has been a shift from political power to armed groups power as these self defense units have taken the responsibility of establishing their own order and laws.

The HRMMU says that the occupation of administrative buildings has disrupted day-to-day life for many throughout eastern Ukraine.

There have been numerous reports of these armed groups in eastern Ukraine unlawfully detaining journalist, as well as beating some.

May 25 Presidential Election

The report states the critical importance of a free, fair, democratic presidential election on May 25 to deescalate the situation in Ukraine.

Several candidates have reported facing arbitrary restrictions, hate speech, intimidation, and violent attacks during their election campaigning.

Internally Displaced Ukrainians 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that as of April 29, there are at least 7,207 internally displaced persons (IDPs) registered in all 24 regions of Ukraine.  The numbers is feared to be much higher however, because not all IDPs register with local authorities.

Most IDPs have gone to Kiev; some plan to leave to other countries such as Turkey.

Russian Citizenship for Crimea Residents

The Russian Federation and Crimean authorities have agreed that permanent residents of Crimea that have been residing in the region as of March 18, 2014, shall be recognized as Russian citizens, except for those, who within a month after the mentioned date, declared a desire to maintain their or their minor children’s active citizenship, or to remain a stateless person.  

After April 18, Crimean residents were no longer allowed to apply to refuse Russian citizenship.

Ukrainian law states that forced acquirement of Russian citizenship by its residents in Crimea is illegal and an illegitimate means of withdrawing a Ukrainian citizenship.

There are reports that those who did not apply for Russian citizenship are now facing harassment and intimidation.  

Those who do no apply for Russian citizenship by January 2015–the period when Crimea’s transition into the Russian Federation ends–could be deported from Crimea.

Harassment Towards Crimean Tatars

Some Churches and religious groups in Crimea have reported facing persecution and discrimination.

Most notably, members of the Islamic political party Hizb ut-Tahrir, declared an extremist group by Moscow, has seen many of its members flee Crimea in fear of prosecution by the Russian Federation based on charges of terrorism.  Many Crimean Tatars who openly practice Islam have said they fear that Russian authorities will consider them members of the group and thus prosecute them.

Crimean Tatars and residents who do not support the referendum held in March on joining Russia have suffered frequent harassment too.

Legislation of the Russian Federation is being enforced in Crimea and it will have a significant impact on human rights, posing in particular limitations on the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion, the report says.

Conclusions and Recommendations by the OHCHR

  1. Establish human rights concerns in line with international standards, and within the framework of the UN General Assembly resolution, and the Geneva Agreement of April 17, 2014.
  2. The violence in eastern Ukraine is the primary cause of human rights violations in the country.  Investigations by the Kiev government should be undertaken into the events and violence in the eastern party of the country.
  3. All armed groups must lay down their arms and stop their unlawful acts, vacate occupied public and administrative buildings as laid out in the April 17, Geneva Agreement, and release all those who are being unlawfully detained.
  4. Security and law enforcement operations must be in line with international standards and guarantee the protection of all individuals at all times.
  5. Acts of hate speech must be publicly condemned and deterred.  Political leaders should refrain from using messages of intolerance or expressions which may incite hostility or discrimination; but they also have a crucial role to play in speaking out firmly and promptly against intolerance, discriminatory stereotyping, and instances of hate speech. 
  6. Journalist need to be allowed freedom and protection “to carry out their work objectively.”
  7. Opposing groups must learn to respect and honor each others’ differing views.
  8. Measures to ensure equal rights and values and respect towards others is important for easing tension in the Ukrainian society.
  9. Free and fair presidential elections are crucial towards deescalating the crisis in Ukraine.
  10. The rights of Crimea must be respected and discrimination towards Crimean Tatars must stop immediately.